In 2013-14 the Providence Friars won the Big East tournament, resulting in the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade. Now the question for head coach Ed Cooley and his program is whether or not they’ll be able to build on that momentum, and with seniors Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton out of eligibility there are two important holes to fill. Providence got a head start of sorts with their summer trip to Italy, going undefeated in three games and doing so in comfortable fashion.
Among the key returnees for Providence are seniors LaDontae Henton and Carson Desrosiers, and juniors Tyler Harris and Kris Dunn. Friday afternoon the school released its finalized non-conference schedule, and there’s one game that clearly stands out.
Providence will visit Kentucky on November 30, playing against the Wildcats for the second consecutive season. Kentucky won last season’s meeting 79-65 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and this season’s meeting won’t include the leading scorers from that contest. Cotton led all scorers with 23 points and James Young, who scored 18 to lead the victorious Wildcats, jumped to the NBA following his freshman year.
Kentucky’s combination of returnees and newcomers has made them the early favorite to win the national title in the eyes of many, and while this game represents a significant challenge for Providence it’s also an opportunity. The Friars’ schedule has just three games against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year, beginning with their season opener against America East tournament champion Albany on November 15.
Providence will also play UMass, which earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, with that game scheduled for December 20. Providence will also participate in the Hall of Fame Tipoff on November 22 and 23, with the Friars facing Florida State on the 22nd and Notre Dame on the 23rd. Providence’s two other games against ACC opponents will be played in December, with the Friars taking on Boston College (December 5 in Chestnut Hill) and Miami (December 22 in Brooklyn).
The task of replacing Batts and Cotton won’t be easy, but given the players they have coming back and talented newcomers such as forwards Ben Bentil and Jalen Lindsey, and center Paschal Chukwu the Friars are capable of earning a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. In order to do so they’ll need to take care of business ahead of Big East play, and while there are some challenges that portion of the slate looks to be manageable.
Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.
A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.
On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.
“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”
The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.
Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.
“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”
Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.
Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”
The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.
Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.
DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.
Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.
TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.
“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”
Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.
Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.